By Kelvin Osa Okunbor
A false fire alarm on an Abuja-bound MedView Airline Boeing 737 from Lagos yesterday earned it immediate grounding by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The acting Director General of NCAA, Benedict Adeyileka, said the action was to enable the agency’s engineers and inspectors as well as engineers of the airline carry out checks on the aircraft.
The plane made an air return five minutes after take- off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, following a false fire alarm.
There were 94 passengers and five crew members on board.
Smoke was noticed in the cabin triggering the alarm, spokesman for the airline, Mr. Oyibotha Obuke, said.
All the appropriate agencies including Airport fire fighters were promptly alerted and were ready for assistance on the tarmac by the time the plane landed.
All the 94 passengers on board were promptly evacuated without disrupting other flights at the airport.
An alternative plane was provided for them to go to Abuja.
One of the passengers, Mr. Longe Olarenwaju confirmed that smoke was noticed on takeoff but by the time the pilot was returning for landing, the smoke had disappeared.
He commended the pilot for the professional way he handled the situation.
Air return is a standard professional practice the world over.
The aircraft now parked at MMA 2 just returned from a major check three weeks ago.
The NCAA acting DG said yesterday that the agency’s engineers had opened up the panels of the aircraft to find out the cause of the fire alarm.
He said that findings so far suggested that the aircraft was in good order, and would be re-certified and released for operations after completion of the necessary checks.
He said the pilot acted in good faith by aborting the flight after passengers exhibited signs of panic, on board.
He said: “We prefer a false alarm to an incident. Air return does not constitute an emergency. The NCAA and its team of inspectors are visibly in the ramp at the airport carrying out routine inspection. Air return is a precautionary safety measure.”